Friday, August 18, 2017

Hold on for a wild ride by Kevin Ronan

Enjoying the dog days of summer? The local real estate market is just as hot, with sellers receiving multiple offers on their property - if the property is priced correctly. In some cases offers are coming in over asking price. This is good and bad news. Good news for sellers hoping to get the best price, but not good news for buyers, having to pay more than fair market value for a property. 
As a seller you need to be prepared to handle multiple offers on your home. Discuss with your Realtor® how you might respond. Here are some options to explore: 

Do not accept the first offer. Give your property time to benefit from the marketing activities.  
If you get a great offer, which is significantly better than the other offers, take it. The term “Cash Is King” is so true when it applies to real estate. Be prepared; a cash buyer may request a quick close. As the seller, be ready to vacate the property in 30 days or less. Believe it or not, this is occurring in Cumberland County.

Reject all the offers if none of the offers, prices or terms are acceptable. Consider going back to all of the buyers who made offers and request their “Best and final offer”- including both price and term. This can reduce the time it takes to get a deal done as well as reduce your stress level.

Here is a thought: The highest offer may not be the best choice for you. For instance, an offer, which includes a contingency such as: the buyer has to sell their current home. 

You may want to continue to market the property even if you are under contract. Why? What if the buyer backs out? Maybe they cannot get financing or the home inspection identifies major problems and the buyer wants you the seller to make the repairs or significantly reduce the purchase price.  

As a buyer be prepared to view homes and make an offer on a home with multiple offers.  Begin by doing your homework!  

Review a market analysis with your Realtor® including properties sold, pending, new listings, and recent price reductions. 

Consider developing a wish list of what your property should include and be prepared to move quickly. Some properties are going under contract in less than 24 hours of being listed.

Get prequalified with your lender not preapproved. A prequalified letter from your mortgage lender validates your credit, income and employment history. This can take as little as one to two business days. When prequalified, you now have a ticket to the dance. 

Finally, it is important to be well educated. Take time to become familiar with some real estate terms that you will likely come across. This journey may be stressful at times but have some fun!  I would enjoy assisting you as you achieve your home ownership goals.

Kevin Ronan, Associate Broker affiliated with Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgton Road, and Westbrook, brought this article to you. He can be reached at 207-838-4855 or emailed at

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rent your home and make money by Carrie Colby

In a world that knows no shortage of real estate, it’s never been easier for people to make money in the lodging industry, partly due to VacationRentals, HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb websites, which have redefined the meaning of holiday/vacation accommodations. Short-term renters can now book a vacation home for a lot less money than a traditional hotel would cost and this also translates into a money-making opportunity for home owners. Home rentals offer so much more than a hotel can. They have all of the amenities of your own home and are more comfortable and spacious than a room can offer.

There are also companies in the area that offer property management services to their vacation rental clients. For a small percentage of the weekly rental amount they will advise you on the rent you can expect to receive, advertise your home for rent, arrange for cleaning services and collect (from the renters) and pay the state lodging tax thus eliminating these headaches for you. This particularly works out well for out of state vacation rental home owners who are unable to attend to their property on a weekly basis.

Recent statistics say that nearly 60 percent of Americans were planning to book a privately owned home or apartment rather than seek hotel accommodation in 2016 and with 87 percent more likely to choose a vacation rental due to availability and easy online access; there is indeed a lot of money to be made, provided that properties meet certain conditions.

Since most tourists using websites such as aren’t just looking for a place to sleep, but also for a superior travel experience, as a host you can’t simply hand your guests the keys and expect things to run smoothly on their own. Increased availability also means that short-term tenants are more choosey when considering their options, so you need to carefully prepare your home in advance and make sure it’s up to their standards.

The better job you do getting your home ready for renting, the more your guests will appreciate it and it’ll also put you in a position to charge a higher rate. So here’s what you need to do:

Make It Spotless:
Before renting your home, inspect it from top to bottom and see which areas need your attention in terms of cleaning and repairs. The kitchen and the bathrooms should be spotless while the beds should be made up with clean linens. Whether you do it on your own or use a housecleaning service, the bottom line is your house needs a thorough cleaning before your first guests arrive. Once that’s sorted, have a look at your appliances and see if everything is functioning smoothly, to make your guests’ stay as comfortable as possible. If you’re experiencing issues with any of your home electronics, consider repairing them instead of new ones.

Make It Simple:
Your house should be equipped with everything that’s necessary to make your guests have that important home-like feeling. This is also a guaranteed way to get positive reviews and repeat business on sites like HomeAway or VRBO. Therefore, you should be able to provide your short-term tenants with facilities and items such as a microwave oven, coffee maker, teapot, toaster, cleaning supplies, basic toiletries, hair dryer, remote controls, extra light bulbs, Wi-Fi access, maps etc.

Don’t forget about leaving detailed written instructions that cover important information such as contact details, emergency numbers, Wi-Fi passwords, house rules, operating instructions for gadgets and appliances and so on. Let your guests know where the trash and recycling should be taken and if you want to go the extra mile, provide them with a list of local grocery stores, gas stations, and recommended restaurants - your efforts won’t go unobserved.
While there are many things to take into consideration when doing short-term vacation rentals, more often than not, the experience is positive for both the hosts and their guests. As long as you use common sense and follow the industry’s best practices, you may soon be accumulating five star reviews.

Carrie Colby Owns Premier Properties 
Premier Properties specializes in Waterfront Sales and Rentals

Friday, August 4, 2017

Red Cross helping people affected by Raymond fire

Five people displaced by single-family home fire

RAYMOND – A Disaster Action Team from the American Red Cross of Maine began working with five people on Monday, July 31 to ensure that they have food, a safe place to sleep and other essentials following a single-family home fire.
Over the next several days, the Red Cross will remain in contact with the affected individuals to provide financial assistance and community referrals as they begin to make their road to recovery.
The American Red Cross provides food, clothing and emotional support to people affected by home fires and other disasters. Individuals wishing to support Red Cross Disaster Services can call (800) RED-CROSS or visit

Do you know the road home? By Nicole Foster, Broker/ Realtor®

A private road is essentially a micro-community, or a tiny town with its own culture and sometimes complex history. Another private road, only a mile away, can have completely different property values. 
There are local private roads where nothing more is in place than an informal and entirely voluntary group of dedicated residents who work together, while accepting that some of their neighbors choose not to participate. On the flip side of this are other local roads where the annual meeting is very well attended and a highly anticipated social event. The dues and fees can be minimal or astronomical and often do not follow seemingly logical assumptions like: “amenities will cost you more,” or “this road is short so the fees must be low.”

When working with your buyer agent to find your new home, consider and discuss whether or not homes located on private roads should be included in your search. With so many street and road classification’s regularly used in municipal ordinances it can be very confusing for home buyers, home owners and even our own local policy makers to understand exactly what type of road they actually live on. 

A private road can mean many things from a paved cul-de-sac in a neighborhood to a rural dirt or gravel right of way. Who owns the road, has permission to use it and is responsible for things such as: winter plowing, drainage and grading; which may depend on a number of variables. 

Ask questions about how the road maintenance is managed and what is expected from each homeowner on the road before buying a home. Some private roads easily manage their budget by collecting quarterly or monthly dues and have a surplus to work with in an emergency; however there are others who haven’t been able to budget appropriately or can hardly manage to keep the roads cleared in the winter or to communicate with one another.  

Over time, homes sell and the dynamics maybe improved or strained depending on the governance and cooperation or lack of it.

In Windham, approximately 48 percent of Windham’s roads are classified as “private” and provide access to approximately 14,000 acres. Recently proposed ordinance restrictions will require private roads to be upgraded from the nearest public street for most new development; which could mean the majority of these roads will never receive any significant upgrades. 

Who maintains your road? As with most things in real estate; “It depends.”  There are local private ways or roads which have been accepted by their municipality to receive annual winter plowing and sanding, but they are increasingly rare. Your buyer agent can help to review any fees and the costs associated with road maintenance. It is wise to reach out personally to the homeowner who handles the business of the road, with any questions or concerns you may have before buying, because even the best buyer agent will not be moving in with you after the closing.

Most lenders will require a Road Maintenance Agreement (RMA) or a formal road association to be present in order to finance a home situated on a private road. These are typically but not always recorded in the local County’s Registry of Deeds.  If you have been denied a refinance or purchase due to the lack of a formal RMA or road association it may be a lender policy and not a regulation and a different lender may be able to help you.

Nicole is a real estate broker with 11 years’ experience specializing in single family, residential and new construction. She lives in Windham with her husband and four children.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Are you motivated to sell your home? By Richie Vraux

Today, we are in a seller’s market in the real estate industry, unlike even a year ago, when the market was still recovering. 

Inventory is very low and buyers are often getting into a multiple offer situation. Many times, sellers are being offered above asking price and getting it. The interest rates are still very affordable so if you are contemplating buying, do it now. 

If you are motivated to sell, find the right agent who will listen and learn about the features and benefits your home offers. But then listen to him in his determination as to how he derived at your selling price. When you tell your family or neighbors what your agent stated it should sell for, everyone becomes an expert. The plumber down the street told me, “I should get $10,000 -$20,000 more than that.”  They may be the best in their own trade but it’s your real estate broker that knows best. Listen to your agent and the comparables he used to determine your home’s value. Your broker is the real estate professional, not your neighbor. 

When your home has been on the market for an exceptional amount of days and has not had a lot of activity, it is time to reassess your selling strategy. Is your agent doing enough to move it?

Make sure there are plenty of advertising opportunities and plenty of broker/public open-houses that are happening. When all else fails and your home isn’t selling in a reasonable amount of time, then it comes down to the price. 

After your property has been shown many times and hasn’t had an offer, it becomes stale and active agents will not show it because they already know what to expect. Some sellers believe that by waiting and not accepting a previous lower offer, it will bring them a higher offer. It is possible, but usually it is the exact opposite. 

The amount of days your house is on the market is your enemy. If you are not getting a lot of activity in this sellers’ market, it is a solid indicator there is something wrong and time to re-think your strategy. Listen to your agent and it will sell. Listen to your agent and it will sell. Once again just to reiterate the point - listen to your agent and it will sell. Did I say that three times? Yes, I did because your agent is the professional.

He or she will come back with a winning idea and you will be on the road to selling your home., your real estate agent should always guide you and work in your best interest to get your home sold. Good luck with the sale of your home.

Richie Vraux is Top Producer and Broker/ Realtor® for RE/MAX who has been a Real Estate Professional for more than 20 years. Put his real estate expertise to work for you. Whether you are buying or selling. Richie can be your guide. Call Richie for a free real estate consultation at 207-317-1297

Friday, July 21, 2017

Keep your money safe with title companies by Randee McDonald

As adults, there are many “rites of passage” and milestone moments in our lives. One of these is undoubtedly purchasing a home. Let’s face it, shelling out that much money and being responsible for a whole house is some scary business. Make sure it is less so, by ensuring your title company provides you with the utmost security when it comes to your home purchase. 
One of the central duties of a title company is to handle all funds that come in and out regarding a transaction. So with fraud on the rise, it’s a wise consumer that knows their money will be safe with the title company they choose. 

Fraud in the banking industry is particularly frightening these days. Thieves have gotten much bolder and technologically savvy, forcing business owners – and consumers – to be even more careful with their private and sensitive information. As a matter of fact, fraud directly relating to checks and wires is on the rise and becoming a real headache for banks and title companies. W. Abagnale Jr., the former con artist now working with the FBI as a corporate cybercrime consultant, was recently in Portland to raise awareness about scams and fraud. Abagnale is well acquainted with methods used by fraudsters and counterfeiters from personal experience. His early exploits as a con artist were portrayed on screen by Leonardo DiCaprio as a young Abagnale in "Catch Me if You Can," with Tom Hanks as the FBI agent after him.

Abagnale now shares his thoughts on how business owners – and thus, their clientele - can protect themselves from being duped.

Abagnale suggests the use of secure positive pay, checks, and micro-cut shredding. Positive pay is a service that matches the account number, check number, and dollar amount of each check presented for payment, against a list of checks that have previously been authorized and issued by the business. All three of these check components must match exactly, or the bank will not pay out on the check when it is presented.

Each day, the business will send a file of issued checks to the bank. When those checks are presented for payment at the bank, they are compared electronically against the list of transmitted checks. If a check is presented that does not have a “match” in the file sent from the business, the bank will then send us an image of the check that is attempting to be cashed, so that it can be reviewed and then either instruct the bank to pay it or not.

Secure checks have a hologram, a so-called void panograph that prevents someone from color-copying, chemically altering or scanning the checks. For shredding, he recommends using a micro-cut shredder, which he said turns paper into confetti the size of a grain of rice. Documents shredded using a straight ribbon shredder can be reassembled. 

Cumberland Title’s rule of thumb is “better to be safe than sorry.” So in addition to a number of other internal precautions that we regularly take to protect both us and our clients, we have implemented all three of these safety measures. These services may cost our company more than the status quo procedures, but the cost of not having them is simply not fathomable, so you can feel confident about working with Cumberland Title.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Your home-sweet-home summer checklist by Amy Krikken

Summertime is a great time to check on things that you can't check on as easily during the winter.
If you have an air-conditioner, make sure it's in healthy working condition. Make sure the fan is functioning, the coils are clean and the wiring doesn't appear faulty. Go a step further and take the time to check and change the filter too.

Window and door weather-stripping should be examined and replaced if necessary. This will ensure that you are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Additionally, check any cracked windows or rotting trim. It’s important to take a moment to look around and take inventory of your home. I know it's hard to give up a weekend to attend to these issues, but your home will thank you and so will your wallet. 

Did you know that your fans should be going counter clockwise and turned off when you are not in the room? This helps conserve energy. great way to lower your energy bill is to turn down your water heater for the summer season and to cook outside at every opportunity, to avoid using appliances that will heat up your home. Also, using blinds or shades helps to keep your home cool during the day.

If your home has a water filtration system, go ahead and change that filter too!

Could your home use a good old fashion power wash? Go for it, because summer is the season!
Take a look at your deck and patio areas, are there any tripping hazards? Are the railings still secure? Shore up any problems. 

How well is your home insulated? Summertime is the perfect time to add any insulation, so that you can be nice and warm in the winter, which as we all know, comes way too soon.

Now that you have checked everything off your home summer list – go enjoy and soak up the sun! 

Amy Krikken works at Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello - Where she loves to help her clients buy and sell real estate all across the state. Call her for any/all of your real estate questions/needs at 207-317-1338. Email at

Friday, July 7, 2017

Buyers should get representation by Matt Trudel

Home buyers should hire a professional to guide them through the complex process, even if it is not their first time in purchasing a home. The real estate market is continually changing: different financing options, changing rules and regulations and market fluctuations of inventory - which correlates directly with pricing. Even if you bought a house 3 to 5 years ago, today's real estate market is vastly different.
A Realtor® is a professional who can take you from start to finish, and can navigate all the hurdles and obstacles that arise. A good Realtor® knows the pulse of the market, negotiates well, will find you a home with the things you desire at a favorable price point, and will continue to work with you even after the closing. You want a Realtor® who has lots of experience, because their experience is what will make your transaction smooth and successful. 

Many Realtors® are very good at networking, especially us Realtors® who have been in the business a long time. They have learned over the years, that by staying in touch with each other and by sharing what is happening with new listings or new clients, they can provide a much better service for their clients. We all have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but it is the new listings that are going to be coming on the market or the homes that the sellers don't want advertised for sale, but are willing to sell if the realtor knows of a qualified buyer that would like their home. These are known commonly as "pocket listings".  

Work with one professional; don't try to work with several different Realtors®. It doesn't take us long in our discussions with you to find out that you are working with several agents. You want a committed, trustworthy and loyal relationship with your agent. You want to show your agent that you are committed to working with just them. That way when they hear about a new "pocket listing" coming up, you are the first one that the Realtor® will call and get you prepared to make a solid reasonable offer at the earliest opportunity.  

A good example of this was a client I was working with that was pretty sure they wanted to build a new home and not purchase an existing home. While going through plans and existing new construction, I learned the most important things they wanted in a home. A fellow Realtor®  mentioned a new listing was going to be hitting the market soon. After a short discussion I was certain the home might be the right fit for my client and after a quick walk through the home I knew it was perfect. My clients loved it and put it under contract the first day. Their loyalty to me got them the very first call. I had already gotten them pre-approved and the process went very smooth because we were prepared. 

So search out that professional that you feel comfortable with and work with them. Sign an Exclusive Buyer's Representation Agreement and start searching for your new home right way.  There are new homes hitting the market every day and the one that is just right for you might be for sale tomorrow.  Matt Trudel, Owner Five Star Realty, 207-939-6971.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mortgage myths all home buyers should know by Rick Yost

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage should be step one in everyone’s journey to a new home. It sets the parameters of the whole home search. What is the most that can be spent?  What is a payment that is comfortable?  It allows the search to be narrowed to homes that meet the budget and saves time looking at homes that are just not affordable. Pre-qualification sometimes also provide the pleasant surprise that a more expensive home can be afforded.

There are several mortgage myths that all home buyers should be aware of. These myths sometimes freeze potential buyers in place and stop potential home owners from pursuing a mortgage or thinking that they qualify for a larger one than they do.

Credit Scores
Many borrowers believe that if you are buying a home with another person, the lender will consider the highest credit score of the two borrowers. This is not true; most lenders take three credit scores from each borrower (Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax) and use the middle score of the lowest borrower.   

For example, if the highest borrower’s three scores are 720, 715, 710 and the lowest borrower’s were 645, 640, 635, the highest borrower’s middle score would be 715 and the lowest borrower’s middle score would be 640. Lenders will use the 640 score.   

There are exceptions: like the highest credit score is also with the significantly highest earner.   Rates are tied to credit scores and the lower the credit score the lender uses, the higher the mortgage rate. This negatively impacts your ability to buy a home.    

Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance is a premium placed on home loans to reduce lender risk. This increases the monthly cost of the mortgage. Most times when a borrower puts less than twenty percent down on the home, the lender requires mortgage insurance. 

There are other options available that may allow for less than twenty percent down and still avoid the added expense of mortgage insurance (commonly referred to as PMI). Some lenders allow for a second mortgage, sometime referred to as a piggyback or buydown loan. In this case the borrower has the original mortgage of 80 percent and they also have a second mortgage for 10-15 percent. 

Another local option is a program offered through The Mortgage Network from Androscoggin Bank, called the Equity Builder that allows for 10 percent down and no mortgage insurance. This is a great option for many borrowers. 

Lenders Matter

Many borrowers don’t believe that who their lender is matters to their real estate agent or to the seller. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your real estate agent can recommend good local lenders that make the process smooth and will handle issues quickly and proactively. 

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act prohibits any type of payments or kickbacks between lenders and real estate agents, so you can be assured the recommendation is based on prior experience and the professionalism of the lender. 

I personally have two lenders that I do not work with for my clients, due to multiple bad experiences. I also have two sellers that I have worked with that refuse offers from buyers that are using a certain bank. So, the lender does matter. A borrower should seek opinions from several sources before settling on a lender.

Quoted Rates

Many borrowers assume the rate they are quoted when they first approach a lender is the rate they will get. In truth, rates are tied to the daily trading of mortgage bonds and change daily. The rate the borrower will pay will not be set until it is locked. This is the day that you chose the home you want to buy and then complete the formal application. That rate now follows the borrower and the home. If the deal falls through on that home and the borrower finds another home, the interest rate will have changed again. It is important for the borrower to get updated quotes throughout the home search. Changes in interest rates change the affordability of homes.

Fixed Rates

Adjustable rate mortgages got a bad rap in the last housing meltdown. Many borrowers are reluctant to use them. They prefer the safety of knowing their mortgage payment is fixed for the next 30 years. Adjustable rate mortgages should be given more consideration if a borrower’s time line of owning the home is between 5-10 years. 

For example, if the borrower knows they plan to be in the house for five years and then sell, they can get a five-year adjustable rate mortgage. Adjustable rate mortgages are running approximately .875 percent lower today that 30 year fixed mortgages. On $200,000 borrowed, the borrower would save $146 per month in interest. That is a big savings if a buyer knows they are only going to be in a home for 5-10 years.  

This should help clear up some mortgage myths. Remember, start your home buying journey by getting pre-qualified by a lender and then find a qualified real estate buyer’s agent to work with.  This should assure a pleasant and rewarding home buying experience.

Rick is a realtor, real estate author, and long-time Windham resident. You can reach Rick with all of your real estate questions and needs at